Tom Furphy and I offered our assessment of yesterday's testimony by four tech CEOs - Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Apple's Tim Cook, and Google's Sundar Pichai - before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee's subcommittee looking into antitrust issues.
Here are how some other media outlets covered and characterized the encounter.
• From the Washington Post:
"They came for blood.
"For more than five hours, lawmakers relentlessly questioned the CEOs of four of the world’s largest technology companies about everything from antitrust to conservative bias. It was an aggressive, wide-ranging hearing that was held to determine if the companies’ outsize power and influence was bad for competition and consumers.
"And the lawmakers showed up with evidence - both in the form of documents and people - to hold the CEOs accountable. It was clear many had also done their research, navigating complicated tech jargon to try to pin the executives down."
The Post goes on:
"Over the course of the more than five-hour hearing, the executives were interrupted and cut off repeatedly by lawmakers on all sides. While Republicans’ and Democrats’ main issues with the companies varied, their unhappiness with the companies was consistent.
"The CEOs have been carefully trained to not give away too much and fill in the blanks with stock phrases, but with just five minutes on the clock for each question, lawmakers quickly cut them off when it was clear they weren’t being direct.
"It was probably a change of pace for the wealthy and powerful CEOs, who are used to calling the shots at their own companies. The aggressive questioning often used the executives’ own past words against them, as lawmakers read lines from old emails."
• From the Wall Street Journal:
"The chief executives of Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google faced relentless criticism at a congressional hearing Wednesday, with Democrats and Republicans alike challenging their business practices over more than five contentious hours.
"The session, conducted via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic, laid bare deep-rooted frustration with some of the country’s most successful companies, at a moment when Americans rely on them more than ever.
"It also highlighted the threat to the companies from ongoing investigations by antitrust authorities, with lawmakers citing internal company emails and witness interviews as evidence that the platforms improperly abuse their dominant position.
The tone of the questions, directed at Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook and Google’s Sundar Pichai, was almost universally hostile. Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.), chairman of the House Antitrust Subcommittee, kicked off the hearing by declaring: 'Our founders would not bow before a king. Nor should we bow before the emperors of the online economy'."
• From the New York Times:
"The chief executives of Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook, four tech giants worth nearly $5 trillion combined, faced withering questions from Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike on Wednesday for the tactics and market dominance that had made their enterprises successful.
"For more than five hours, the 15 members of an antitrust panel in the House lobbed questions and repeatedly interrupted and talked over Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Tim Cook of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Sundar Pichai of Google.
"It was the first congressional hearing for some time where Democrats and Republicans acted as if they had a common foe, though for different reasons. Democratic lawmakers criticized the tech companies for buying start-ups to stifle them and for unfairly using their data hoards to clone and kill off competitors, while Republicans questioned whether the platforms had muzzled conservative viewpoints and were unpatriotic."
The Times goes on:
"In response, Mr. Pichai, Mr. Zuckerberg, Mr. Cook and Mr. Bezos, who testified via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic, were forced to strike a more humble chord. They presented themselves as participants in enormously competitive and fast-changing digital marketplaces, and they evaded questions about the decisions that turned their companies into giants.
"'We approach this process with respect and humility, but we make no concession on the facts,' said Mr. Cook at the outset of his testimony."
• From Axios:
"Yesterday's House antitrust hearing didn't nail a case that the Big Tech companies are monopolies. But lawmakers wrung some surprising admissions from the CEOs about how they wield their market power … All the companies, subcommittee chair David Cicilline said, have become bottlenecks for distribution, using their chokehold over data to surveil potential competitors and their control over technologies to extend their power."
The coverage suggests that the attacks were on two fronts: "Amazon faced tough questions about its role as both a massively successful online retailer and the proprietor of the biggest online marketplace for third-party sellers. Apple took sustained heat for its power over the its App Store, and the cut it takes from developers who sell digital products through their apps."
Facebook and Google, on the other hand, faced withering criticism for acquisitions they made of companies that might've become formidable competitors: "Panel Democrats said the social network's acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp were plainly anticompetitive — that the company made the deals to stop Instagram from becoming a competitor to its main platform and WhatsApp from becoming a competitor to its messaging service … Lawmakers homed in on (Google's) acquisition of DoubleClick in 2007 as the watershed moment when its dominance of search combined with power over the levers of online ad targeting."